The Russian protégé working as the chief editor of the website for racketeering Bivol, Atanas Chobanov, has plastered a tonne of lies in the respected US magazine Newsweek. This is not the first time that Chobanov, who is the son-in-law of the long-time correspondent of RIA Novosti in Paris and Brussels Victor Onuchko (with ties with Kremlin), is trying to spread lies abroad in service of his oligarchic mentors.
The latest issue of Newsweek features an article about the supposed poisoning of the arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev, a loyal partner of the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev. For the past dozen or so days the publications of the Capital circle, owned by another indicted oligarch, Ivo Prokopiev, have been spreading in Bulgaria the thesis that Vassilev’s pawn was given in 2015 a chemical element similar to the Novichok nerve agent and that the Russian military intelligence agent with the alias Fedotov, who is suspected of poisoning Skripal, was in Bulgaria during the incident with Gebrev.
As of the writing of this article, Bulgarian authorities have not confirmed whether the Russian agent really was in the country. The only data on the case appeared in foreign media outlets, including the British website Bellingcat (the website that published the revelations about Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, connected to the poisoning of Skripal). Meanwhile, the information was used by the shady political and economic groups in Bulgaria and their publications for disinformation to spread shameless lies, linking the hospitalisation of Gebrev to Russian interests and the name of lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski.
The latest example of such complete fabrication is the aforementioned Newsweek piece, where the otherwise respected periodical cites Chobanov as its source. Obviously, the US journalists were misled and did not realise that they were being taken advantage of by a complete fraudster protecting the interests of his master Tsvetan Vassilev.
What did they lie about?
According to Chobanov’s preposterous opinion expressed for Newsweek, “…his reporting suggests that a Bulgarian media mogul named Delyan Peevski, who has ties to Russian intelligence agents, wanted to take over the company, Dunarit, so he could control Bulgarian arms sales to Ukraine.”
Newsweek also cites Gebrev, who told Bellingcat that he did not know why he was targeted by the Russian military intelligence but that the incident may be related to the fact that his company, Dunarit, exported specialised defence equipment that is sold to Ukraine, where, as the US magazine points out, Russia is supporting armed separatists.
What is the truth?
Let us start with the easier part – obviously, Newsweek is not aware that Dunarit is not owned by Gebrev and never has been. The arms dealer managed to gain control of the management of the military plant through a series of illegal schemes See here, currently being challenged in court. In the meantime, however, the plant is being treated as a piggy bank by Gebrev and his mentor Tsvetan Vassilev, who uses the money embezzled from Dunarit to pay generous fees to various lobbyists, lawyers, and accommodating journalists in an attempt to escape legal repercussions. Vassilev is the one who has Russian ties, who wants to seize the entire Dunarit under the noses of the state and the CorpBank depositors he defrauded.
Peevski, on the other hand, has not only never been involved in the deals to put a hand on Dunarit but to the contrary – he has never been tempted to enter the arms business. He has said as much himself. See here
Back in 2017, in an official position, Delyan Peevski categorically said, “I do not have, have never had and will not have in the future anything to do with companies in the military industry... I have never visited arms expositions in India, Sudan, Qatar, Dubai, or anywhere else, and I have not offered ‘submachine guns or shells’ or any other military production. So the biased and utterly false insinuations, as well as the attempts to create totally fake news related to my name, are doomed to utter failure.”
Peevski also does not have Russian ties – he has never had even a sliver of such. To the contrary, his past, as well as the editorial policy of the Telegraph Media members, are testimony to the opposite – pro-Atlantic and pro-European attitudes and behaviour. At the same time, the fugitive banker is all about Russian ties. Let us not forget that a solid number of the people surrounding him are Russians.
Here is a brief account of the events in their chronological order. At the beginning of 2015, Pierre Louvrier, a mysterious Belgian national with Russian passport all of sudden popped up in the management of the Dunarit group. He proved to be a figurehead of the Russian Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and a very close friend of Igor Strelkov-Girkin, pro-Russian separatists’ leader in Ukraine. So, Tsvetan Vassilev has practically underhandedly gifted Dunarit military plant to the figureheads of Konstantin Malofeev, trying to guise this fact picturing them of “Western investors”.
Later on, in the end of 2015, the second Russian entered the picture – Dmitrii Kosarev, also a hired hand of Malofeev posing as an “independent” businessman who obtained from Vassilev the same companies, Dunarit including. After the Bulgarian public and the defrauded CorpBank depositors refused to buy this ploy, at the beginning of 2016 Vassilev started carrying out another plan, this time with the participation of Emilian Gebrev. The plan envisaged to finally sever the bond of Dunarit with the loans the plant received form the bankrupt lender. Thus Gebrev is a follow-up of the failed saga with “Russian citizen” Louvrier. Tthis was the second episode of the same sequel directed by Tsvetan Vassilev. Actually Gebrev is a convenient successor to the thieves and not a “Russian” victim.
This time-related detail is of crucial importance, because only three years later both Vassilev and Gebrev will have conveniently forgotten about it and started spewing out insinuations omitting the fact that throughout 2015 Dunarit was de facto owned by the Russians. There is no logic whatsoever in poisoning Gebrev in April 2015 because of Dunarit and the alleged “Russian interests” in this enterprise after the Maloffev-Louvrier duo officially announced that they were the Dunarit owners in March of the same year. At that time, Gebrev was still kept out of Vassilev’s schemes involving the arms manufacturer. He entered the scene a year later as a follow-up of the failed Russian saga with the Dunarit ownership. After all, the seller of the plant bought with the CorpBank money is one and the same person, namely Tsvetan Vassilev, only the people who committed the theft are different.
We would like to quote yet another fact: in 2017 it transpired that EMKO company featured on the US State Department black list of companies banned from carrying on trade with the US companies. The list includes a multitude of firms from half a dozen countries, but Gebrev’s company is the only one based in Bulgaria. It doesn’t sound like Gebrev embraces Western values, does it?
Here is one more question that is worthy to be thought over. According to the inquiry by Bellingcat, the second time when Fedotov visited Bulgaria he had to take a return flight to Moscow from Bulgaria. Instead, he went to Russia by a flight from Serbia. Make a wild guess who is residing there up to this moment? Bingo! As of 2014, Vassilev has been using the Serbian capital as a refuge from the Bulgarian justice system. All of his friends and associates pay him personal visits to bring him the necessary documents, money or to help him weave a web of new schemes.
Who is talking?
To make it clear who is interested in reproducing these lies it is always important to find out who is talking. In our case this is the quasi editor-in-chief of the racketeers’ website bivol.bg Atanas Chobanov. Although Chobanov lives in Paris, he has unmistakable Russian traces in his biography.
Before becoming an “independent journalist” Atanas Chobanov earned his crust working for the Bulgarian secret services. Among the members of the Bulgarian community in France who keep in touch with the Bulgarian embassy word is spread that Chobanov has repeatedly offered his services to the Bulgarian political police but after he saw that the remuneration was not “adequate” he gave up on them and started to backbite about them.
These claims are not by far the only that cast a shadow of secret police upon the life of the self-appointed investigative journalist. His wife, Maria Onuchko, who is currently working for Russia Beyond the Headlines (a foreign project allegedly supported by the Kremlin propaganda machine) is a daughter of Victor Onuchko, the longtime RIA Novosti reporter in Paris and Brussels. It is not a secret that outsiders are never appointed to such positions.